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Antibiotic Use Criticized In New Campaign

New report, campaign says antibiotic use in animals is leading to a "major national health crisis."

Published on: Jun 21, 2012

Consumer Reports' public policy group Consumer Union, along with the Environmental Working Group, Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Center for Food Safety Wednesday released a "Meat Without Drugs" campaign based on a report conducted by Consumer Reports that suggests American consumers prefer antibiotic-free meats in their local supermarkets.

"Antibiotics are losing their potency in people, leading to a major national health crisis, and we need to drastically reduce their use in food animals," said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union.

The Meat Without Drugs campaign, which includes a video directed by Food Inc.'s Robert Kenner, is urging supermarkets to sell only meat from animals raised without antibiotics. Campaign organizers also submitted a letter to the USDA asking for tighter standards on antibiotic food labeling.

New report, campaign says antibiotic use in meat animals is leading to a "major national health crisis."
New report, campaign says antibiotic use in meat animals is leading to a "major national health crisis."

The accompanying report, "Meat On Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consumers Can Do to Stop It," found that 86% of consumers polled said meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local supermarket.

The report also found that 72% of respondents were "extremely or very concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed." Large labeling differences were also found between stores, which the Consumer's Union called "confusing" in their letter to the USDA.

"Consumers who want to buy meat raised without antibiotics need a system they can rely on to feel secure that the labels on those products are meaningful and accurate," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director, Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports. "Consumers would benefit from one standard, meaningful, USDA-verified label that is consistent on all meat and poultry products from animals raised without antibiotics."

Earlier this month, the American Farm Bureau Federation, along with the American Feed Industry Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council and several others sent a letter to Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), who proposed to ban antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production under H.R. 965.

In the letter, the groups cited several peer-reviewed risk assessments which explained that antibiotic use in animals is more stringent than that for human antibiotics.

"Real world experience shows that reducing antibiotic selection pressure in animals has no impact on human resistance levels," the letter said. "Producers and veterinarians take seriously their responsibility for ensuring good animal welfare and antibiotics that are used carefully and judiciously by producers and veterinarians to treat, control, or prevent disease improve animal health and welfare."